Bill C-22: Security agency activities may be legal, but are they democratic?

This is one of the questions posed by CUSJ today, in a letter to Senator Jaffer, Deputy Chair of the Senate committee on National Security and Defense (SECD) that is studying Bill C-22. As you may recall, CUSJ has already submited a brief on Bill C-22. This letter is a follow-up, that draws Senator Jaffer’s attention to three relatively simple amendments that would improve Bill C-22 immediately and that would likely elicit approval from the House of Commons.

The first change would be to change the clause that makes it possible to maintain secrecy of ‘ongoing operations’. What constitutes an ‘ongoing operation,’ exactly? Doesn’t the use of this vague term make it possible for security agencies to avoid democratic scutiny?

The second suggestion is to reconsider the appropriateness of security agency activities in a democratic society, rather than just their technical legality.

The third is to rethink the clause that allows security agencies to withhold information based on the premise that it could be injurious to ‘national security’. What exactly does this mean? Shouldn’t citizens’ democratic right to participate in the democratic process be a higher priority than so-called ‘national security’?

(Note: the letter itself expresses these sentiments much more diplomatically. To view the actual text of the letter, click here.)

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